Monday, June 28, 2010

Horror Movie Marathon Weekend #2 Mini-Reviews!

Elisa’s Horror Movie Marathon Weekend #2

This past weekend, I had another little horror movie marathon, but this time, I decided to mix it up and have a bit of newer and a bit of older in my selections. Some were good, some...not so much.

A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) - Another Larry Cohen film, and my last one left to see starring Michael Moriarty (the others being Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, and my favorite, It’s Alive 3: Island of the Alive). Filmed directly after Island of the Alive, this is very loosely based on the Stephen King story and follows a father and his estranged son who inherit an old farmhouse in a quirky little town that may or may not be filled with blood-sucking villagers. Loads of fun, great plot and wonderful acting, I am thoroughly enjoying the Cohen/Moriarty combo and am ever hopeful they do more projects together. Their latest was the brill Masters of Horror ep, “Pick Me Up.” As for the majority of other MOH eps, of which I’ve been viewing between other movies, I can’t say much. Most of them, I’ve had to turn off halfway through they’re so bloody terrible. Even Valerie on the Stairs, a Clive Barker story adapted and directed by Mick Garris was bloody awful! It’s disappointing, because there were good names behind these episodes, but the whole premise and setup rarely worked. But I digress. Salem’s Lot was brill. Find it, watch it.

Fear of the Dark (2002) - This movie really surprised me, in the best way possible. It has a simple premise – a boy is afraid of what lurks in the dark after the lights go out – but it has so much more going for it. First, the dialogue between the boy and his family was the most natural I think I’ve ever heard in a horror film, or in any film. Both the writers and the actors should be highly commended for bringing such realism to the film. The older brother’s ribbing of the younger brother’s fear, then his realization that the young boy was actually very scared was great. The other interesting thing about this film was that there was little to no gore, zero swearing, and no put downs, but it was an excellent film! This little Canadian gem doesn’t need to rely on those horror clich├ęs to be good, it has a fantastic plot, great character development and was really well-acted. The older brother has gone on to do many other things, as well he should, since not only was he a really good actor, but totally adorable, too. Excellent film. It’s on Netflix Instantwatch, so what are you waiting for?

Shutter (2004) - This is the original Thai film about a photographer and his girlfriend who accidentally run over a young woman who returns to haunt them. I saw the Americanized version with Joshua Jackson first, and thought it was okay, but a lot of it didn’t make sense. This original was far better plotwise and there were some really touching scenes. It was also super, super creepy compared to the American version as well. The Asians know how to do creepy really well. The main difference between the two is that in the American, the girlfriend is pretty much left in the dark as to what was going on with the photographer, but in the original Thai, she is right there, helping him, which makes the twist at the end all the more realistic and shocking. So note to Hollywood – getcherown ideas! Oh wait, you’re too stupid to do that.

The Jar (1984) - This bizarre little gem is essentially the story of a man possessed by a demon who lives...wait for a jar. The film fell squarely into the “so bad, it’s good” territory and it was enjoyable as a bizarre, acid-like head trip. The main dude was pretty hot (I have a thing for dudes with 80s beards, especially ginger guys), although he couldn’t act his way out of a Three-quarters of the way through, I realized that this might possibly be Christian propaganda against addiction (mainly drugs and alcohol) disguised as horror, since the main dude did resemble Jesus and his hallucinations were mostly about crosses and eerie guys in robes. The demon looked like something Full Moon would cook up – far too cute to be scary, but it was still a lot of fun.

This movie also serves as a cautionary tale to aspiring filmmakers: To preserve realism, try to keep your cameramen out of frame:

What were they thinking watching the dailies?

"Oh shit, Lou's in the shot. We gotta reshoot that!"
"Don't worry about it, Al, no one'll notice. It'll add to the atmosphere!"

I’m still laughing.

The House of the Devil (2009) - A young girl in need of easy cash takes a babysitting job at a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere and suspense ensues. For the first hour, I loved this movie. Although filmed just last year, it was done so authentically 80s, that I had to double check when it was actually made. Every little detail was perfect, down to the shoes the girl wore and the coffee cup on her desk and the fantastic soundtrack. It was awesome! The acting was really good – I loved the girl’s hilarious best friend and Mary Wuornov from one of my favorite films, Eating Raoul was in it! - and I was thoroughly enjoying this film...until the last half hour, when it took a total 00s detour into stupidity. The plot fell apart so terribly, I actually got angry at it and wanted to punch writer/director Ti West in the face. His “Masters of Horror” ep was utter shite, so I wasn’t surprised, but still! The film’s unraveling was especially annoying because during the first half-hour, one of the scenes gave me such a shock, I actually jumped and was trembling for a good few minutes afterwards, because I was so emotionally invested in the characters. I won’t give away anything, but let’s just say the ending got really stupid, really fast. Highly disappointing for something that was building to such a remarkable climax to be let down like that. Boo!

Quarantine (2008) - After being so disappointed by HOTD and after all I’d heard about Quarantine, I was expecting it to be a steaming pile that I would enjoy making fun of...but no! It was pretty durned good. A young reporter and her cameraman shadow a set of firemen on a call to an old building and everyone, including the tenants are threatened by a deadly virus that turns people into zombies. Really, really fun, Blair Witch-ish style film, which in my opinion was better than that other handheld pile of crap, Cloverfield. There’s some gore, but it’s done well, and the characters are pretty well-developed. The acting was a little bad, but this seems to be the curse of most horror films these days. Quarantine is a remake of the film [REC], so I’m going to see how they compare. A solid, fun, little film.

So, there’s my weekend. Some good, some not so good, some with which I was very pleasantly surprised. If anyone wants to recommend any other horrors for me to see, please reply to this post! I’m always open to feedback!

Monday, June 21, 2010

80s Horror Movie Marathon Reviews

Elisa’s 80s Horror Movie Marathon Weekend!

Thanks to 80s Horror Movies and Netflix, I had a bit of a marathon this weekend of obscure-ish 80s horror movies. Some were good, some were great. It’s amazing that all of them that I saw were loads better than the majority of the so-called good to half-decent horror movies of today. ALL of these 80s horrors at least had plots and some (if not major) character development, which is more than I can say for the majority of horror films these days, where all they're aiming for is a money shot of either nudity or gore or both. A lot of these 80s films weren’t really “gory” per se, but they still had a lot of fun elements to them and I enjoyed them all.

Here’s what I saw:

The Pit (1981) - Jamie (Sammy Snyders) is a strange kid who doesn’t have any friends, save for his talking sadistic teddy bear and the goblins who live in his backyard. This movie was AWESOMESAUCE! Well-acted (esp. by Snyders in the lead) and really silly and fun. And it was also charming to see my adopted granny in one of the most loved scenes.

Blood Beach (1980) - I’d always heard of this film, but was too young to see it when it was first released. Something is terrorizing the Santa Monica pier and only a young lifeguard and his estranged wife can figure out what it may be. This again, was awesomesauce. Burt Young played this hilarious detective investigating the case and he stole every scene he was in. Again, it had a fantastic plot, and the “monster” aspect almost seemed secondary to everything else going on in the story. Unfortunately, said monster itself was supremely disappointing. This might actually benefit from a remake...if they keep to the same script as the original and just spend a bit more money on the monster design.

Death Valley (1982) - A young boy (Peter Billingsley of A Christmas Story in his first role!) and his mother travel with her new boyfriend to Death Valley in Arizona, where unexplained killings are occurring. The boy finds a piece of evidence that sends the killer after him. OMG, Stephen McHattie? More like Stephen McHottie in this film! He sang! he danced on rooftops! He couponed! He...killed people! Oh yeah, there’s that. But omg, he was totally hot. I was trying to figure out where I recognized him from and discovered he was Elaine’s therapist on Seinfeld! (Remember the “Crazy” Joe Davola arc? Great, great stuff) XD This was more suspenseful than scary, but again, like the others, great plotline and writing. Nice twist at the end, too.

Scream For Help (1984) - A young girl suspects her mother’s new husband of killing people, and goes to extreme lenghts to uncover his possible crimes. This, again, was another wonderful film. Sadly, the young lead, Rachael Kelly, only did this film, one other, and a TV episode. I hope she’s just retired from acting and nothing untoward happened to her. She was really great. Again, this was more suspenseful than gory, but there was a bizarre load of graphic sex scenes and boobs in this one. I have never seen as many natural boobs in horror movies than I did this weekend. :P And I so want this shirt now. XD

God Told Me To (1976) - I took a little breather from my 80s horror movies to watch my Netflix pick. This is another Larry Cohen (It’s Alive! trilogy, The Stuff, Masters of Horror ep. “Pick Me Up”) film and I loved it just as much as everything else I’ve seen of his. How I’ve never really seen much of his work before is beyond me, but I’m rectifying that now. His films always are a little “out there,” but in the best way possible and are always still grounded in (potential) reality, which makes them possible, which is fantastically eerie. He always has some sort of message in his films, too (The Stuff was about rampant consumerism, for example.) GTMT dealt with religion (possibly even Scientology!) and I can’t really say anymore without possibly ruining it. It’s almost better to go into Cohen films not really knowing anything about them, then just let them unfold before you.

The leads were all wonderful and the writing was brilliant. I need Cohen to take a look at my third (unpublished) novel for me and give me some pointers, because we seem to think alike, at least plotwise. And if GTMT couldn’t get any cooler, Andy Kaufman has a cameo in it! Just rent it.

The Rejuvenator (1986) - Think of Re-Animator meets Death Becomes Her and you pretty much have this movie. Slightly silly, but adorable storyline about an aging film star who will do anything to stay young and the scientist who has (almost) perfected a “fountain of youth” serum. The actress becomes his test subject with...interesting results. There are even a few little homages to Re-An in the film. Great, great stuff.

Deadline (1981) - An emotionally heavy film about a horror writer whose life begins to reflect the gruesomeness of his stories. This was more psychological than actually gory, and good lord, it was depressing. Well-written, but not something to watch if you want light or “pick-me-up.” Intense, heavy, and very well-acted, it was filmed (and set!) in my hometown of Toronto. Apparently, the writer’s little daughter was also in Cronenberg’s The Brood, another great film.

The Devil’s Gift (1984) - A young boy receives an antique monkey figure for his birthday, which may be possessed by the spirit of an evil demon. Again, like all the others, a great film – well-acted and well-written. The “bromance” between the boy’s father and the bachelor next door is slash-worthy. Apparently, this movie was remade in 1996 as Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders with a happy ending, but I got to see the original, not-so-pleasant finale, which made a lot more realistic sense. As Stephen King knows, don’t fuck with antique monkey toys, my friends.

So, overall, a fantastic weekend of 80s (and one 70s) horror movie. It’s amazing to think that of all the ones I (very randomly) chose, there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, but I’m hard-pressed to do that with the majority of today's horror fare. There are loads more of these movies out there, so I shall definitely have another of these weekends and share the results with all of you! :D

Read about Marathon #2 here